Ever want to cover your ears and go, “la-la-la-la-la?”
My senses get overwhelmed all the time lately. There are too many things competing for my attention.
Some attention grabbers are external: take for instance a moment last fall. My son won’t sit still, my phone is ringing, the waitress wants to take the order, and we’re at dinner with new friends as I’ve discovered I’ve lost my brand new credit card that I had just used to pay for parking. Okay, deep breath. This situation all worked out and I somehow kept my cool and even laughed through it. The phone call was my bank letting me know someone had found my card and had called them to report it. Dinner turned out fun and ended with ice cream. My son was a holy terror but somehow managed to eat his dinner and we didn’t get kicked out of the restaurant. And we made new friends.
If you’re like me, the attention grabbers that reside inside my head are the real stressors. I can’t diffuse them with as much ease as I did at the restaurant. On the outside, I have it all together, but inside it’s like being inside a movie theater and all the walls have come down between each theater and all the movies are playing at once. Loudly, with lots of vibrant colors to draw attention.
It doesn’t really matter what makes up the inside inputs, but it does matter how I control them.
I get overloaded more easily these days, trying to attend to all the things I need to do, need to remember, need to address, or want my attention. I compulsively, I admit, check email far more often than is healthy, and I treat it like I am the phone operator trying to connect all the calls coming in.
Look how easy and glamorous I make this look!
At work, especially, I treat email like I am on a game show and I must reply quickly and exactly right or I can’t progress. The problem is, I was in the middle of answering another question when I stopped to check my email. I ran a report to answer the first question and checked email as I waited for the report to run. Then a colleague approaches and asks a question, which I try to answer on the spot, because I already know from experience I will never do if I keep interrupting myself. Which I will and do.
Same thing happens when I am home alone (home with family is a whole OTHER story). I start some laundry and then feel smug in how productive I’m being. Then I feel a rush of energy and decide to make something to eat. I look through the items on hand and realize I am going to have to either get creative or go to the store. That makes me feel tired so I end up grabbing an apple instead and sit at the table, chewing away as I look at my phone, meaning to reply to an email or RSVP to an invitation. Instead, I see new emails and posts on Facebook and Instagram, read articles, watch videos, and basically follow a rabbit hole far past the end of the apple.
I realize the washer is done so I get up to transfer the clothes to the dryer. Oh, there are clothes in the dryer, except they are all wrinkly, so I run the dryer for a while to fluff them up. I notice the trash is full, but I don’t take it out. “Later,” I promise it, as if it’s longing for its destiny to land in the dumpster, a thought that makes me laugh out loud. I register that the dishes need to be done, but I will wait on those until after I eat, so I can do them all at once. I may eventually turn on the tv, completely forgetting the laundry, a meal, emails, the trash, the dishes, and lots of other things. If I turn on the tv and lie down, it’s over: I’m taking a nap.
I’d make a terrible phone operator.
Putting A Call Through
A telephone operator putting through a call at a switchboard circa 1930. (Photo by Keystone View/FPG/Getty Images)

How do you deal with too many inputs in your day-to-day life without getting overwhelmed?

Thanks for reading.


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